Mexico City (Mexico) -- A great pit stop 20 laps from the end allowed Kenny Brack to capture his first-ever Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) road course win at the Grand Prix of Mexico City in the finale of the 2002 FedEx CART Series. Brack...
Mexico City (Mexico) -- A great pit stop 20 laps from the end allowed Kenny Brack to capture his first-ever Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) road course win at the Grand Prix of Mexico City in the finale of the 2002 FedEx CART Series.
Brack moved into position to capture the lead during the final round of pit stops. Michael Andretti's crash on lap 53 of the 73-lap brought out a full course caution. Brack entered the pits in third place, behind Dario Franchitti and Christian Fittipaldi.
The Target Chip Ganassi pit crew got Brack back out before the other frontrunners who pitted. He pulled onto the track in second place behind Michel Jourdain Jr., who choose to stay out in front of his home crowd in Mexico City rather than pit. Paul Tracy, involved in a first-lap, first-turn incident with Jimmy Vasser, was positioned between Jourdain and Brack, but was a lap down to the leader.
On the restart, Jourdain and Tracy pulled away from the pack, much to the delight of the several hundred thousand fans in the stands, waving Mexican flags, cheering on their countryman as the race wound down. Jourdain led for nine laps before finally pitting and relinquishing the lead to Brack, who was never challenged from there to the checker.
"Fantastic victory, I don't think that I won, this crowd makes me feel really good. We finished this season in great moment," said the Swede.
Mo Nunn pilot Tony Kanaan had dominated the race, taking the lead at turn one of the first lap. Pole sitter Bruno Junqueira slide wide left at the turn one right hander, putting a couple of wheels off the track before reentering in ninth. When Junqueira went too wide, Kanaan went low for the lead from his fourth starting position, followed by Fittipaldi, Franchitti, Brack and Patrick Carpentier.
Kanaan maintained the lead until the second round of pit stops on lap 40, when a near-tragedy occurred in his pits. The clutch on his Honda-Lola had been dragging during the race and at the end of refueling, the car crept forward when the crew dropped it off the jacks, which jerked the fueling hose out of the hands of the gas man. When this happened and Tony pulled away, the hose separated from the nozzle and sprayed methanol across the top of the car onto the crewman nearest the pit lane, along with at least two others who were also over the wall. Other Kanaan crewmembers, along with crews from nearby pits and the CART Simple Green safety team, quickly extinguished the invisible fire.
Three crew members visited the CART care center and were examined by CART physician, Dr. Olvey, who reported their injuries were not life-threatening, mostly first and second degree burns to the hands and arms, along with some inhalation burns.
Kanaan had returned to the track in first place until a few laps later when CART hit him with a drive-through penalty for a pit infraction, ending his chance at victory. Kanaan drove through for his penalty on lap 49, handing the lead to Franchitti, who kept it until the early third round of pit stops just a few laps later.
Andretti, running in the top 10 during most of his final CART race, slid at turn 13, lost control as he hit the grass on the right, and shot back across the track, slamming into the wall, ending his race. Michael was OK but this full course yellow set the stage for Brack's pit stop and Jourdain's run up front before he turned the lead over to Brack.
CART season champ Cristiano da Matta finished second behind Brack. Junqueira was third, Carpentier fourth and Franchitti fifth. Fittipaldi was running seventh until he lost power and his car began to smoke slightly on lap 67. He retired at the end of that lap.
Two other Mexicans were in the starting lineup but notably absent was crowd favorite Adrian Fernandez, still nursing injuries suffered at Surfer's Paradise in Australia two weeks ago. His replacement, Luis Diaz, started last and blew his engine on the first lap. Australian winner Mario Dominguez retired on lap 16 with a broken suspension
The start was wild and wooly, with cars rather spread out down the track when the green was waved. One such driver was Tracy, who started eighth, and came roaring down the long front straight with no one in sight. As he approached turn one, his brakes locked and he plowed into the back of Vasser, sending both of them off the track. Vasser continued but Tracy had settled into a gravel pit and lost a lap waiting to be pulled out under a full course yellow.
The CART season finale was a big success for all those involved, with a beautiful track and excellent facilities. Hermanos Rodriguez track is now an excellent venue for CART.